Making the Grades
Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick have already perfected their roles on Broadway as two sleazy musical producers who try to bamboozle their backers out of millions of dollars. Now they, and many of the other original cast members, are recreating their characters for a movie version of the play.
Max Bialystock (Lane) is a washed-up producer whose most recent theatrical production has just been panned by the critics. When his timid public accountant comes to review the books, Max encourages him to get a little creative with the numbers in order to save him from a visit to jail. While fiddling with the figures, Leo Bloom (Broderick) realizes it would be easier to make money on a flop than a hit. Together the two men conspire to find the worst script of all time and take it to Broadway.
After reading hundreds of drafts, they discover 'Springtime for Hitler' written by Franz Liebkind (Will Ferrell), an ardent fan of the Third Reich leader. Sure of it's failure, they go in search of New York's worst director and find Roger De Bris (Gary Beach) at home with his male assistant (Roger Bart). Dressed in an evening gown and jewels, the unsuccessful manager agrees to take on the project only after he consults with the houseful of gay artisans who share his abode.
Having secured his help, Max and Leo go about casting the most awful actors they can procure including a leggy, blonde Swede (Uma Thurman). Then Max bilks the needed finances out of lonely, elderly women who he seduces and beds in exchange for hefty checks.
Everything seems set for certain failure and the producers couldn't be happier as hoards of disgruntled patrons walk out of the theater during the first few minutes on opening night. But when Roger is forced to fill in as Hitler following a last minute accident, his version of the German commander hits a funny bone with the remaining audience members who misunderstand his interpretation.
The audience extols the production and the two swindlers are left with a Broadway hit on their hands.
Both Lane and Broderick appear comfortable with their roles as charlatans who unethically acquire their funds. Unfortunately, this plot seems equally comfortable with offending audiences of all sorts. Sexual overtones run throughout the script with descriptive comments made about intimate activities between heterosexuals and homosexuals alike. Dancing girls dressed in minimal costumes high kick their way across the stage on several occasions.
When Franz is offended by the portrayal of Hitler, he goes on a shooting spree that ends with the gun pointed at his own head. Luckily no one is shot, but his devotion to the leader of the German commander results in some uncomfortable demands on others and the use of crude hand gestures.
Set in the style of golden era musicals, The Producers shows all the signs of being a hit, but after one offensive poke follows another, this script comes up with little material that's suitable for families.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Producers.
The script makes fun of numerous stereotypes including homosexuals, the elderly and foreigners. Does presenting this material in a tongue-in-cheek manner make it an acceptable laughing mater?
Do Max and Leo learn anything from their failed attempt at producing a play? What consequences result from their actions? Are there any signs of reformation?